Last year, Masterfoods USA, the makers of M&M's Chocolate Candies, held a contest to find the colors of its famous melt-in-your-mouth candies that had been "missing" for the two months of the promotion. Finding M & M Fitness Equipment LLC was almost as tough.
After SNEWSÂ® heard that this new company would be producing the licensed Everlast-branded fitness equipment in the United States (See SNEWSÂ® story, April 11, 2005, "Everlast jumps into U.S. fitness equipment ring"), we figured we should do a more formal introduction to the retail community and to the industry as a whole. Well, that was easier said than done, but we did get it done.
Modell's Sporting Goods -- yes, the 116-year-old, 125-store chain based in New York City -- is the company behind the new Everlast equipment line, although the exact nature of the relationship remains somewhat mysterious. Seems Modell's is as shy as M & M Fitness about talking to anyone about it.
Industry insiders told SNEWSÂ® that Modell's gained the licensed deal in the 11th hour, outbidding at least one other manufacturer. The move, according to sources, then allowed Modell's to sub-license the manufacturing and effectively control distribution of the brand.
During a recent call with SNEWSÂ®, Everlast senior vice president of licensing, Hal Worsham, said that M & M Fitness was in fact "a real company and they have the license." When asked about the whereabouts of the elusive company, he referred us to Ron Cohen, who he said is in charge of product development for M & M Fitness. So happens the phone number for Cohen is the main number for Modell's. We recognized it, and asked Worsham if that meant Cohen was employed by Modell's. Worsham then also turned shy and said we should talk to Cohen, who he confirmed is based at Modell's, but declined to elaborate.
A call to the contact number given to SNEWSÂ® by Worsham was indeed answered with a polite "Modell's Sporting Goods." We asked for Cohen and were transferred to an answering machine, which told us he was traveling overseas through early July. We left a message.
While Cohen was traveling, SNEWSÂ® checked with the New York State Department of State Division of Corporations (NYSDOS) and found that M & M Fitness filed to do business on March 14, 2005 -- four days after the announcement that it would be producing Everlast's exercise equipment making it further seem as if M & M is a brass plate company.
A little more digging with the NYSDOS showed another interesting fact about M & M Fitness, only furthering the link to Modell's: Seems its registered address is the same as Modell's corporate headquarters â€¦ right down to sharing the 20th floor of the New York City building.
Being ever-vigilant (and, by this time, a little annoyed about all this shyness and avoidance), SNEWSÂ® made several more calls to Cohen following his return. Thus far, Cohen has not returned calls and the person who has since answered the phone when transferred to him told us she is unaware of M & M Fitness Equipment LLC.
Worsham did say that Everlast plans to do cardiovascular equipment, weight-training equipment and free weights, and hopes to have at least some available for the 2005 holiday season. Most of the rollout, he said, will however be in 2006. Most, he added, will be sold in sporting goods stores.
SNEWSÂ® View: We realize that Modell's is a privately owned company and thus doesn't talk about -- and doesn't have to talk about -- its business (and we have been told so personally by Mitchell Modell). But com' on already â€¦ fitness is a rather small circle and everyone else does talk. We aren't sure what the impact of Modell's controlling distribution of a well-known (although not for fitness equipment) brand may mean in the long run, but we think competing sporting goods chains like TSA and Dick's may not get this stuff. For Everlast to allow control of its distribution by another that assuredly shuts the doors on Modell's competitors, as well as possible other channels such as warehouse clubs or department stores, means it must have secured a pretty dang good licensing rights contract. And what does this mean to any manufacturers that want to or do sell equipment at Modell's? Suddenly, you're competing with the retailer itself. Even with Modell's deep pockets, it still seems like an awful big gamble to bank on the success for a relatively new fitness brand in the crowded arena of price it is targeting. Be assured that SNEWSÂ® will keep digging on this melt-in-your-mouth good mystery.
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